A generous grant from the Virginia and Richard Stewart Memorial Fund, through Princeton University’s Council of the Humanities, has made it possible for the Princeton University Library to expand online digital access to its extensive holdings of Islamic manuscripts. More than 1,200 digitized Islamic manuscripts are now available for study online in the Islamic Manuscripts Collection of the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL).
Professor Michael A. Cook, Class of 1943 University Professor of Near Eastern Studies, notes that “Princeton’s great collections of Islamic manuscripts, acquired to support research in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, will be increasingly available to scholars all over the world, as the Library continues to digitize its holdings.” The Library has the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America and one of the finest such collections in the Western world. Holdings include nearly 10,000 volumes of Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and other manuscripts of the predominantly Islamic world, written in Arabic script. Approximately two-thirds of them came to Princeton in 1942 as part of the Garrett Collection, donated by Robert Garrett (1875–1961), Class of 1897. Building on this extraordinary collection, the Library has continued to acquire Islamic manuscripts by gift and purchase. Now there are approximately 3,000 additional Islamic manuscripts with New Series and Third Series designations. Text manuscripts on virtually every aspect of Islamic learning, both religious and secular, are the chief strength. Princeton’s holdings also include Persian and Mughal illuminated manuscripts and miniatures. Other collections include European manuscripts written in Arabic script or containing translations. Arabic papyri are separately housed in the Princeton Papyri Collections. All of these holdings are in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, within Firestone Library.
The Stewart Memorial Fund grant has made it possible to digitize over more than a thousand additional Islamic text manuscripts from existing gray-scale microfilm, which was produced in a Library project over 35 years ago with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Title II-C. For the present project, the Library selected nearly 400 volumes, chiefly New Series manuscripts containing texts on Shia law and theology; as well as texts relating to other non-Sunni sects, such as the Druze and Kharijites. In addition, more than 750 other manuscripts on all subjects were digitized from the Garrett Yahuda series, acquired in 1942. The newly digitized manuscripts account for more than a tenth of the Library’s Islamic manuscript holdings. This project has been accomplished through the collaborative efforts of the Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Technical Services, Systems Office, and Digital Studio. Principal access to the newly digitized manuscripts will be through links in the Voyager bibliographical records for each manuscript. In addition, links to digitized manuscripts will be added to the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts.
Generous funding from the Magic Project, Princeton, made it possible nearly a decade ago to digitize approximately 220 manuscripts in full color and put them in the Digital Library, which went online in 2009. A Google search for the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts generates 21,000 “hits” worldwide, from North America, through western Europe and the Near East, to Southeast Asia. Among those who have linked to the Princeton site are innumerable Near Eastern Studies programs, research centers, library e-resource guides, e-collections and open-access resources, and Near Eastern Studies scholars’ personal web pages. It is anticipated that the Digital Library will continue to grow as the Library digitizes additional manuscripts, most often in response to photoduplication requests by individual non-Princeton researchers. In all, the Princeton collections have been a world resource for nearly a century through research visits to the Library or by remote use (photoduplication and most recently digitization).
For information about Princeton holdings of Islamic manuscripts, contact the staff of Public Services.